American skier Mikaela Shiffrin again did not finish her race at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games Wednesday.
Shiffrin is one of the best female skiers in the world. She arrived at the Olympics hoping to win several medals.
When asked what happened, Shiffrin said, “I’ve never been in this position before.” With tears on her face, she added, “and I don’t know how to handle it.”
The 26-year-old American skier had won gold medals in the slalom race at the 2014 Sochi Games and the giant slalom at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Shiffrin skied off course Wednesday and did not finish either in Beijing.
Shiffrin arrived in Beijing with plans to enter all five individual skiing events. These include the downhill, super-G, and combined. Another gold medal would make her only the second woman to win at least one from Alpine skiing at three Olympics.
In Wednesday’s slalom event, Shiffrin lost control just four seconds and four gates from the start. She then took off her skis, sat down, and rested her head on her arms atop her knees.
Pressure to win
Other racers said the top of the slalom course where Shiffrin went off was not icy or difficult. Katharina Liensberger of Austria — who took the silver behind Wednesday’s gold medalist Petra Vlhova of Slovakia — called it “a really easy course.”
Shiffrin has won 47 World Cup events in slalom - more than any skier has won in any individual event. She explained that maybe she was trying to attack too much. “I was pushing,” she said, “and maybe it was past my limit.”
She did not think the pressure to win was the issue. “My entire career has taught me to trust in my skiing if it’s good skiing and that’s all that I have to rely on…Of course, the pressure is high, but that didn’t feel like the biggest issue today,”
Before the Olympics, Shiffrin had said that she could understand why top athletes shared their feelings about pressure and high expectations. Competitors like gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Caeleb Dressel have done that.
Biles, considered the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from her event at the Tokyo Games. Biles said, “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
Dressel won five swimming events in Tokyo. But he said after the races, “so much pressure in one moment; your whole life boils down to a moment.”
And Shiffrin has also been open about losing her father, Jeff, who died in February 2020. Earlier in the week, she said “Right now, I would really like to call him, so that doesn’t make it easier.” Then, with a laugh, she continued: “And he would probably tell me to just get over it.”
Shiffrin’s next chance to compete could come Friday in the super-G. But she might not enter the event, saying, “It would be a pleasure to ski. But I also have some teammates who are really fast…”
She has not competed in a super-G event at an Olympics, but she won the event at the 2019 world championships.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Hai Do wrote this report for VOA Learning English with additional reporting from The Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
handle –v. to do the work that is required
career – n. a job or profession that someone does for a long time
rely on –v. to trust or believe in something will happen
boil down to –v. (phrasal) to have (something) as the main part or the most important idea
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